McALLEN, March 22 - McAllen attorney Bobby Guerra has been asked to participate in next week’s historic Tejano Monument celebration in Austin, as a representative of one of the oldest surviving South Texas ranching families.
Guerra, a Democratic candidate for Texas House District 41, will help officially unveil the various statues that make up the monument on March 29. The monument is the first on the state Capitol grounds to recognize the contributions Tejanos have made to Texas.
“I have been asked to go to represent the old ranching families of South Texas. I am absolutely thrilled. It is a great honor,” Guerra told the Guardian.
Another member of the famous Guerra family, Felo Guerra, has also been asked to participate in the celebrations. The invitation came from Dr. Cayetano Barrera of McAllen, the inspiration behind the Tejano monument project.
“Dr. Barrera and I are related. My mother’s name was Barrera and her family had a ranch in Premont dating back to the 1820s. The brand that is going to be on the bronze horse at the Monument is the family’s brand that dates back to 1826. It is still in use today by some of my cousins over there,” Guerra said.
Both sides of the Guerra family have deep roots in South Texas as some of the pioneer ranching families. “Both sides of my family have been here since the late 1700s. We are one of the old ranching families in these parts. The Guerra family was originally from Starr County and Hidalgo County,” he said.
Dr. Barrera first came up with the idea of securing a Tejano Monument on the grounds of the Capitol back in 2000. It took the board members of Tejano Monument, Inc., many years to secure the public and private funds necessary to have the statues built. They worked closely with a number of Hispanic lawmakers in order to persuade the State Preservation Board to allow the Monument to be built on the south side of the Capitol, which is where most people enter the building, rather than the north side. Those involved say it was quite a battle to get the Preservation Board to relent.
Asked how big a deal the Tejano Monument is, Guerra said it was immensely symbolic.
“If you look in the historical records, Stephen F. Austin, the so-called founder of Texas, used to sign his name Estevan F. Austin. He wanted all Texans to learn Spanish. How times have changed,” Guerra said.
“The history books do not reflect our contributions. Our culture and our old families have contributed so much. The old ranching families were the original cowboys. It was the Spanish Mexicans who started the ranches.”
Many of the original South Texas ranching families were forced off their property by the Texas Rangers 100 years ago. “Luckily, on my mother’s side of the family, we were able to keep our ranch holdings. Other old families were not so fortunate,” Guerra said.
Guerra said he would like to pay tribute to Dr. Barrera for his tenacity and leadership in securing the Tejano Monument. “Dr. Barrera was the inspiration for this project. He has worked for over ten years to make this happen. We are so proud of him for doing it,” Guerra said.
Celebrated painter, sculptor and educator Armando Hinojosa of Laredo was selected to design the Tejano Monument. His statues depict a conquistador exploring what would become Texas, a vaquero driving longhorn cattle and settler families establishing their homes.
Among the corporations to have helped make the Tejano Monument a reality are the International Bank of Commerce, American Electric Power, AT&T, and Marathon Oil Company. Wal-Mart has donated $100,000 to the Tejano History Curriculum Project.
Gov. Rick Perry will officially unveil the Tejano Monument with Hispanic lawmakers and the Tejano Monument, Inc.